As I sit down to type this, I don't have a clear direction for this post. I am going to do some stream of thought typing and let the story tell itself.
I just wanted to give you a heads up on my personal nutrition/lifestyle. I read a LOT and spend even more time just thinking. My mind is always going a million miles an hour and I love to experiment on myself; and others if they are up to the task. I have this insatiable appetite for knowledge and am always trying to learn and grow as much as I can.
With that being said, I am sure you have all heard CrossFit's general stance on nutrition. If not, here it is:
"Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar."
This is what I began to transition to when I first found CrossFit. You see, I came to CrossFit via T-Nation (a bodybuilding forum) and thought "eating clean" meant egg whites and oatmeal with berries for breakfast, turkey breast on whole wheat bread for lunch, and boneless, skinless, flavorless chicken breasts with brown rice and broccoli for dinner. In between, I had to be sure to eat several small snacks so that my metabolism wouldn't slow down!
At the time, the change seemed extreme, but I had done my research and it seemed to make sense to me. I began to eat a ton of lean meats, tuna, almonds, fresh veggies, and fruit. I tinkered with the ratios from time to time, but just never felt right. I would go through periods of intense carb cravings or even worse, stomach cramps, aches, bloatedness, and just all around general unpleasantness. I "knew" what I was doing was "healthy" so I did everything I could to bear it out, hoping that my body would stop revolting and begin thriving on it. This was very difficult to adhere to though when I was in discomfort more often than not. At the same time, I never stopped researching nutritional topics. I continued to explore new ideas and even played with the idea of jumping off of the "Paleo" bandwagon.
Long story short, I have arrived at a new resting point in my journey and I most certainly did not arrive here overnight. It is at this place though that I have developed my own creed and it goes something like this:
"With intermittent fasting, eat loads of saturated fats, some animal protein, little in season starchy vegetables, little in season fruit, and no polyunsaturated fats, all while being sure to get out in the sun, supplementing with vitamin D3, CrossFitting, and sleeping 9 hours a night."
This certainly isn't written in stone and will probably continue to grow with me, well into the future. For now though, it is working and I feel better than I have in years.
When it comes to nutrition, we preach lifestyle changes, not diets. This is because diets are generally viewed as being short term, quick fixes. When you diet, you are changing things up to reach a desired goal and then you will return to your old habits (i.e. your lifestyle). This is OK if your goal is also temporary. For most of us though, our nutritional goals are things we would like to have for a lifetime, not just here and there. Therefore, to accomplish these goals, we must make changes with plans of sticking to them for the long haul.
I know it is easier said than done, but try not to be overwhelmed. Change, especially change of the magnitude we are calling for, can be very daunting. It doesn't have to be though. If need be, break the journey into smaller, more manageable pieces.
But be warned...
There are a few potential pitfalls associated with smaller steps.
- Taking small steps will produce slower results which can be discouraging for some.
- Small steps require continuous action. You can't take a small step and then put off taking another small step. You have to keep taking step after step so that they add up to the larger change we are seeking.
There you have it. After setting your goals and finding the path you must travel to get there, it will be up to you to decide wether you want to hit the road running or slow it down a bit and start with a gentler walk. Being a CrossFitter, I am pretty sure I already know the route most of you will take
Being that we are going to be talking nutrition on Saturday, now seems like as good of time as any to talk about having a goal. Goals are important for several reasons, but as it applies to your nutrition, your goal will serve as direction. Based on your goal we will devise the best course possible to get you there.
Your goal must have certain qualities about it though. For our purposes, your goal needs to be clear, concise, measurable, and attainable. Without all of these qualities, you will be guaranteeing yourself failure before beginning because you won't have a clear idea of what success is.
As for the attainable part, that is actually two-fold. First, be realistic with yourself and don't set the bar too high, too fast. An example of this would be someone setting their sites on being the 2009 CrossFit Games Champ when they can't do pull-ups on their own yet. Second, don't have conflicting goals. You can't get "heyuge!" and have the abs of an Abercrombie model at the same time. Decide which one is more important to you and go for it!
Do you know what barley, buckwheat, corn, fonio, millets, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, sorghum, and wheat all have in common? That's right, they are all grains.
Now that we know what is considered a grain, let's take a brief look at grains are composed of.
The entire seed itself is referred to as the "kernel". As you can see in the picture, the kernel is made up of 3 parts:
- Bran - This is the tough outer coating of the kernel. It contains proteins, vitamins, minerals, and most of the fiber. Sounds all well and dandy, but it is also home to anti-nutrients and gut-irritating protein constituents.
- Germ - This is the plant embryo and it contains a fairly dense source of fatty acids (mostly omega-6), some protein, and assorted vitamins and minerals.
- Endosperm - This is the germ's food supply. It is composed mostly of starchy carbohydrates, some protein, and little in the way of vitamins and minerals.
OK, we should all be on the same page now. Let's get to the good stuff, shall we?
There are several reasons why we so strongly recommend your avoidance of grains.
- Insulin Response - Like all other carbohydrates, grains are eventually broken down into glucose which requires an insulin response. If your body's glycogen stores are full at the time, this extra glucose will be stored as fat. This taxes the adrenal system, the pancreas, and the immune system as well as causing inflammation. Besides, who wants to get fat?!
- Phytic Acid Levels - Grains contain high levels of phytic acid. These phytates are not destroyed during the cooking process and block our body's uptake of key nutrients like calcium, zinc, and magnesium. Your body's ability to process Vitamin D is also reduced by these phytates. There is a reason why most commercial grain products are fortified with so many different vitamins and minerals.
- Fiber - Fiber deserves an entire post of its own, but I will give a brief summary here. Contrary to what big business would like you to believe, fiber is NOT necessary. In fact, fiber can be an irritant to most. This is because it simply passes through your digestive system, scraping up the walls as it moves on through. Your body has no use for it. On the other hand, the nasty bacteria living in your gut, responsible for IBS, lives solely off of this stuff.
- Gluten - Gluten is the large, water-soluble protein that creates the elasticity in dough. Our bodies respond to our ingestion of gluten with inflammation. Overtime, this inflammatory response leads to dermatitis, joint pain, reproductive problems, acid reflux, autoimmune disorders, and celiac disease.
- Lectins - Lectins, by definition, are proteins which bind specifically to carbohydrate-containing receptors on cell surfaces and "do something" to said cells. The "do something" ranges from causing Leaky Gut Syndrome to Autoimmune Disorders to Lactose Intolerance.
Livestock don't handle grains too well either. Their fatty acid profiles become completely altered and they become infected with heat and acid resistant strains of E. Coli. A grain based diet requires plenty of hormones and antibiotics to keep the sick livestock alive long enough to be slaughtered.
There really is no "healthy" justification for consuming grains. They do not provide a single nutrient that you couldn't get in equal or even greater amounts from other foods and they wreck havoc on our bodies.
I am making myself available this Saturday, after the 10am Introductory Class, to share my thoughts on nutrition with any of you who are interested. I will put a sign-up list on the extra whiteboard at the Fort and I ask that you throw your name on there if you will be hanging around on Saturday. Feel free to get some skill work in during the Introductory Class while you wait.
Please spend some time seriously considering your goals if you haven't already done so. Your goals must be realistic, observable, and measurable while not conflicting with each other, if they are to be attainable. I would also like to ask that you get some measurements taken this week, preferably before class, as Saturday will be pretty busy.
Finally, I know I will come off as a dick saying this, but I must reiterate Jennie's comments from the other day and ask that you don't waste my time if you aren't truly interested in buckling down and attacking your nutrition. There is no minimizing the fact that it is going to take hard work and discipline to succeed. Changes will have to be made. Don't expect me to simply reduce your calorie intake. That's not what this is about. I have ample studies backing up the claim that you cannot out work your food consumption. Instead, we will be targeting hormonal changes through your dietary prescription (more about this on Saturday). I know this is foreign to most of you and maybe even a little unimaginable. I'm not asking you to believe that the world is flat though. I'm just asking you to have an open mind, be a critical thinker, and make informed decisions on your own. I guarantee that working with me on your nutrition will result in improved workouts and better body composition. There is no doubt that you will have more energy and simply feel better throughout the entire day.
- Grass-Fed Ground Beef (485g)
- Grass-Fed Tallow (44g)
- Sliced Baby Bella Mushrooms (40g)
- Garlic (14g)
- El Pato (7.75 oz)
- Raw Grass-Fed Cow's Cream (32g)
- Chihuahua Cheese (104g)
- Lots of Cumin!
Start by browning the ground beef in the tallow and cumin. While that is happening, chop up the mushrooms and garlic. Once the meat is close to being done, add the mushrooms and about one third of the garlic. Cook all of that for a minute or two and then add the El Pato tomato sauce. Aggressively simmer everything at this point so that some of the moisture cooks out of the El Pato. Now add the cream and continue to stir until the sauce thickens. Serve in a bowl and garnish with shredded chihuahua cheese.
The picture above does not do this dish justice! It doesn't help that I had to take the picture with my iPhone.
When I started, I had no idea what direction I was headed. All I knew was that I was at the end of a 17 hour fast and wanted some ground beef before heading to the Fort for my evening classes. I just kept looking in the refrigerator and cabinet until I felt the meal was complete. Next time I will omit the mushrooms and possibly add some bacon, but the results were still terrific!
Here is the nutritional breakdown according to The DailyPlate:
- Calories - 2,148
- Fat - 178g
- Carbs - 14g (after subtracting the 4g of fiber)
- Protein - 114g
When it was all said and done, this meal took me about 15 minutes to prepare and an astonishing 7 minutes to devour!
We care about the success of each and every one of you! That is why we are excited when you come to us, looking to take your journey a step further and make changes to your diet. There are a few things though that will stop you before you ever even start. Please try to avoid the following:
- Don't be discouraged that you have been CrossFitting for 'x' amount of time, but aren't losing any weight or aren't seeing any major body composition changes if you haven't properly addressed your diet. The fact that you CrossFit can not be your justification for eating that bowl of ice cream. You see, exercise alone is NOT sufficient for major body composition changes. You can CrossFit until you are blue in the face, increasing your strength and fitness, but if you do not address your eating habits, you will not dramatically alter the appearance of your body. Whether you want to get heyuge or want to shed some fat before summer, nutrition is what will get you there. In the following examples, the before shots are of 3 individuals who were CrossFitting twice per week without addressing their diets and the after shots are the same individuals, still CrossFitting only twice per week, but with their diets cleaned up. Click Here
- Don't let your scale be the judge of your successes. Throw the scale away! The scale will become your worst enemy. You see, if you haven't done much strength training before starting your CrossFit experience, you will see dramatic increases in strength (i.e. muscle) during the first several months if not year. Even if you are dialing in your nutrition and losing that much hated fat, the scale may still say that you are gaining weight. Truth is, muscle weighs more than fat. Judge your successes by how you feel, by how your clothes fit, by how much jiggle you have when you jump up and down in front of a mirror, and by annual blood work results.
- Don't ask us for nutritional advice and then say, "Oh, I could never give up (fill in the blank)!" If that is the case, then you obviously prefer stuffing your face with (fill in the blank) over being lean and healthy. People, there is no magic pill! There is no "easy" fix! Want to know what is easy? Being fat is easy. Look around you. 65% of the adult population in this great country of ours is overweight. 65%! You have to decide that being lean and healthy means more to you than that box of (fill in the blank). Remember, food is not your friend! Food is simply a means to an end. We eat to live, not the other way around.
- Don't rationalize the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of your current diet because ours sounds difficult. This usually follows number 3 in a given conversation and looks something similar to, "Well, I already eat pretty clean/healthy except for the occasional (fill in the blank) so I'm going to stick to that." You aren't fooling anyone, not even yourself. If what you are currently doing isn't producing the results you are after, then you must take action. Tweak it, change it, scrap everything and start from scratch; just do something. Doing the same thing over and over though while expecting different results is simply insane.
We get it though. We understand how difficult it can be. You have to accept that fact though and pull up your boot straps.
It isn't easy for any of us. We all have to be disciplined and make sacrifices from time to time if we are going to meet our goals. Nobody is without their food demons. It is perfectly OK, even expected, for you to make some progress, start feeling good, but then stumble and fall down. The key is to get right back up, dust yourself off, and climb back onto that horse.
You are a CrossFitter! You don't shy away from a challenge. You welcome discomfort every single day that you show up to workout.
Food is most definitely physically addicting. Telling an overweight individual to simply stop eating would be like telling a depressed person to stop being so down. You have our support though. CrossFit Fire is a family and we are all here for each other. Utilize the numerous resources that we collectively bring to the table and your goals will all be attainable.